Monday, January 31, 2011

A Road Trip as a Survival Mechanism

A book report on a 50,000 mile road trip
Ghost Rider
Travels on the Healing Road
Neil Peart
The moment I realized I could get this book in e-reader form it was only a matter of time before I would acquire it and read it. I had been reading some mysteries lately and when I discovered this book I knew I wanted to read it. And report on it. For I know very well who Neil Peart is. I didn't know he was also an author. My knowledge of the author goes back to the 1970's. A time when I used to play a little electric guitar. We used to put a record on the turntable, plug in our guitars and play along to the albums. We would dream of playing on the big stage. Most of all we would just have a lot of fun. Sometimes we would nail the music sequences. Sometimes we could hit the 'licks', other times not so much. One of the bands we liked to play along with was the Canadian Rock Band "Rush". I remember a couple of their early albums very well. After more than 30 years they are still Rockin', even though there was a couple of years where they took a break. The author of this book, Neil Peart, is the drummer for "Rush". I didn't know until just recently, that the author had experienced some personal tragedies in his life. The kind of tragedies you wouldn't want to wish upon anyone. First, his 19 year old daughter, his only child, was killed in an automobile accident. Then, not too long later, the love of his life and mother of his daughter died. She officially died of cancer, but as the author puts it, she really died of a broken heart. Damn! Now, I can't begin to even try and understand what I would do in a similar situation. I just hope that nothing like it ever happens to me. But the author, also an avid motorcyclist, decided he would try and deal with his grief by going for a ride. The author thought that maybe riding would help him get his mind off the pain and grief he was experiencing. In an almost Pirsig like expression he talks about how riding his motorcycle causes total concentration and attention to the road in front of him. That would help keep his mind occupied and even lull him into a tranquility caused by the the constant motion and vibration of the motorcycle as the world passed by him. We're talking a lot of miles, hopefully a lot of healing and a lot of months all over the north american continent.
Peart's weapon of choice. A BMW 1100GS
I believe the author calls himself the "ghost rider" in part because of the many demons, memories and monsters that travelled along with him. He mentions that the world around him doesn't seem quite real and that he experienced a disconnect with the world surrounding him.
In the book, the author really bares his soul, his deepest thoughts and that is part of what made the book so fascinating to me. Some of the book is also a compilation of notes from the road and letters to friends and family during his "self imposed exile". The effect is to make the words more immediate to the moment being experienced and more real to the reader. There's some great stuff here.
Did I mention Pirsig like phrases?
"And sometimes there was music playing in my helmet, too, as my mental jukebox transformed the white noise of the wind passing into a soundtrack in richly detailed high fidelity ... When the riding became demanding, the music receded into the background, but when it was just me and the motorcycle on a pretty stretch of road, my brain would turn up the radio."
. Man, have I been there. I constantly have my "music" with me when I ride. There's no stereo on Max, just my mind.
Part of the book talks about the author's love for literature. He mentions various authors that he admires or has enjoyed. Names like Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain, Jack London, Sinclair Lewis and even Truman Capote are mentioned in the book. He would buy books in bookstores, then mail them back to his home in Canada to be read later or given to a friend. He even stopped momemtarily in the town I was born, Garden City KS. He was interested in Truman Capote's book "In Cold Blood" about the murder of a farm family occuring in the late 1950's. He wanted to stop by and see if he could find the farmhouse of the Clutter family. He did.
I took lots of notes as I read the book. I enjoyed it that much. The subject, yes, is a bit gloomy, but the insight into his mind is fascinating. At one point as I read, I imagined how the end of the book would turn out to be. The author gives a couple of hints. In a silly fashion I imagined sort of a Hollywood type of ending, which of course didn't turn out to be the case. The issues were much deeper than my mind was envisioning at the time. The ending is maybe a bit peculiar, but as I think back on it more and more, the better I like it.
A final conclusion I drew from the book is that life is just what it is.
It Just is, Deal With It!
Alex Lifeson on the left, Geddy Lee in the center and the author, Neil Peart, in the background to the right.
They first played together as a trio in 1974, the year I graduated from high school.
I just really like their "sound". I always have. I'm not sure they are the greatest rock group ever to be, but three and a half decades later, they still tour and play together. I have never seen them in concert and had a chance to this year, but we had already bought tickets to see the Dave Matthews Band (who rocked the house, btw), and the family budget for attending concerts isn't unlimited.
But I will tell you that I have a little CD player at the office and the "Rush" CD's get played as much, if not more than a lot of the other CD's I have.
I highly recommend this book for a bunch of reasons. Motorcycles, Rock n Roll, philosophy and life. How good can it get.


  1. Dear Jimbo:

    Great insight to what appears to be a very engaging book. In truth, not only is tomorrow not guaranteed, but later on today can be in doubt also. Not only do we have to make the best of life now, appreciating its many wonders, but getting through its trials is becoming a day-to-reality for millions of people too.

    It can always get worse.

    I hope you are feeling better and making your plans for the spring. I am looking forward to riding with you some day, and giving you some saddle time on a K75. (That way you won't be overly impressed when you ride a Triumph.)

    Kep smiling,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  2. I have been meaning to pick this up. Thanks for sharing. Bryan Edwards

  3. Dear Jimbo:

    No return comments from you... Everything okay?


  4. riepe never worries about me like that.
    he must like you.